When I say the word’s “Christmas Story”, what pops into your head? A Star? Bethlehem? A Manger? A Red Rider BB Gun? We all have thoughts about the Christmas Story. We are constantly reminded during this time of year to remember the true meaning of Christmas. But, what is the true meaning of the Christmas Story? Let me suggest to you that the Christmas story began way before that night in Bethlehem; way before Mary and Joseph; all the way back to the beginning of the world.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” we are told in Genesis 1:1. God created everything. God created man to live in fellowship with Him. Man sinned; and the relationship was severed. There was a huge gap between God and man that man had no hope of bridging.
The entire Old Testament is a story of God choosing to reveal Himself to His people. God’s Shekinah Glory represented God’s presence with His people. The word Shekinah, aside from being a fun word to say, simply means a visible manifestation of a divine presence. The burning bush (Exodus 3:1-15); the cloud of smoke, the pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21-22); Moses atop the mountain (Exodus 31) – all pictures of God’s Glory.
Later, God chose to allow His glory to dwell with His people in the Tabernacle.
Still later, God allowed Solomon to build a temple where God’s Glory dwelt again among His people.
God’s Glory represented God’s presence and His covenant with His people.
God had not given up on them. God was choosing to reveal Himself to man.
Throughout out the entire Old Testament we see a cycle:
-God has a good relationship with His people.
– God’s people rebel and fall away from Him.
– God’s people fall on hard times.
– God chooses a messenger, a prophet, a judge or a king to lead His people back to Him.
– The relationship is restored.
– And the cycle begins all over again.
But, in Ezekiel chapters 8 & 9, due again to His people’s rebellion, we are told of God’s Glory leaving the temple; in fact, leaving the face of the earth. From that point on, God’s Glory wasn’t seen or heard from for over 400 years. That is a long time.
To put it in perspective, try this, The United States has only been a nation for a little over 230 years. We are talking 400 years here.
Imagine what people must have been thinking.
50 years go by… No prophets; no Word from God.
100 years pass… no judges; nothing
200 years… not a word; no Glory. Has He forgotten us?
300 years… despair sets in as people remember stories of The Glory
400 years pass… no Glory. God must have given up on us. We are doomed
“there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” (Luke 2:8-9)
What shone around them? THE GLORY!
For the first time in over 400 years, The Glory was seen on the earth.
“the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”” (Luke 2:10-11)
God didn’t forget us! He came back! God’s presence once again dwells with man.
And this time it was different. No smoke or fire, tabernacles or temples; no, this time God chose to dwell with men as man. He manifested Himself through His Son, Jesus. So that He could bridge the gap of sin once and for all and provide the way for God to dwell in us as His chosen people; as His Children.
That’s the true meaning of Christmas! God didn’t leave us in our sin. He came back to save us. He came back to dwell with us. Why? Because He loves us!
If you need hope this Christmas, there it is. God made a way for you and for me to become His Children. It is a story that has been thousands of years in the making; a story that is still being written.
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His GLORY, the GLORY of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)